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Feedback is a friend not a foe: How to give and receive meaningful feedback

Feedback is a word that can often make people feel quite uncomfortable. It isn’t easy to give honest feedback to someone, especially when that feedback isn’t always complimentary. Moreover, it can be very difficult at times to receive feedback – positive or constructive. But it is important for development to get an honest and open understanding of how you perform, how you are around others and what works or doesn’t work in some contexts.

It is time to break the mould and get honest with one another.

At Oasis we encourage a culture of 360° feedback, peppered with ‘do well’s and ‘do differently’s. The formal process of 360 involves getting feedback from a variety of colleagues covering several features about how you are at work: whether you display behaviours in line with the values and ethos of the organisation, your relationships with your colleagues, how you manage conflict, what you have done really well etc. This is then reviewed and sorted in a way that is helpful and clear to understand.

Informally, feedback is encouraged throughout the working week between colleagues and managers, staff and students – going both ways! It is important that feedback can go both up and down the management relationship in order to create a fully productive working environment with healthy, open relationships.

But how can you give feedback well?

Giving feedback can feel daunting, especially if it is less than complimentary. We recommend the following advice to be able to deliver feedback effectively:

·       Pick the right time – It is important to address what you want to say (both when appraising and constructive) at the right time. Make sure that you are feeling confident with what you want to say, they are in the right space to receive feedback and not during a crisis or a bad spell, and make sure that you don’t leave it too long. Putting awkward conversations off can be detrimental to trust, especially if you bring something up that happened weeks or months ago later.

·       Pick the right setting – Don’t give feedback that is sensitive out in the open. Make sure you choose a safe space where both of you can feel comfortable having the conversation in private.

·       Understand what you are feeding back – This is possibly the most difficult part of giving feedback. It is important for your relationships that you are fully aware and prepared with what you want to say and how you are going to say it. Think about the words you want to use. Don’t speak in the heat of the moment, but take time to reflect on who you are going to talk to and what type of approach suits their personality best. You can make notes if you need to, but avoid getting too many out mid conversation. Take some time, think and breathe.

·       Example your feedback – Feedback can be more powerful if you are able to give examples to demonstrate the point you are making. By saying “I was really impressed with your presentation last Wednesday. I really thought you had the attention of everyone in the room and there was a respect for your knowledge, especially when you spoke about XXX” you are going to do more for personal development than “Great job on your presentation”.

·       Balance your feedback – It is going to benefit both of you if you can give balanced feedback. Find those examples of what they have done well and you are pleased with to sit alongside those that you would like them to do differently next time. But don’t be insincere. If you need to have a difficult conversation, make sure you get that across.

·       Be patient, and considerate – We don’t always know how people are going to respond to our feedback, therefore it is important we are patient and understanding of their needs. This can be reflected in our body language when we are talking to them, or in the level of volume we have in our voice, the setting we choose even! If they don’t accept your feedback straight away, that is ok – some people may need time to consolidate what you’ve said. Just keep your cool and your conviction and you will be ok.

How to be a good receiver of feedback

If you work in a culture of open feedback then it is likely you will get used to being comfortable with feedback. If not, then sometimes it can feel awkward or even painful to receive feedback. Here are our top tips on how to be when someone is giving you those all-important notes:

·       Be open – It is likely that the person who is feeding back to you is feeling nervous about what they are going to say, and may even have spent some time building up to the conversation. It is good to try and be open to what they are suggesting, listen to them and try to take it on board. Closed body language is going to make the conversation harder so try to think about how you are coming across too.

·       Take time to reflect – You may disagree with some of the feedback given about you, and that is fine. We are often able to think a bit clearer and comprehend something better if we take some time to reflect on what we have learned. If it is positive then great, make sure you find some space to celebrate the feedback and your hard work. If it is less than positive, try to keep your composure then take some time to think about what is being said vs. how you perceive your actions in the workplace. Is there some truth in the feedback? Can you see another perspective? It may be that they were nervous and didn’t necessarily use the right words, but that isn’t always the case. There may also be times when they haven’t understood fully the situation. In which case by taking some time to reflect on what they have said, you can put together a clear and concise account of how you feel and arrange a time to follow up on the feedback. Some feedback may need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

·       Accept praise – It is no secret that on the whole British people feel uncomfortable with compliments, but it is important that you acknowledge this in the moment and then take some time to reflect later on. A simple ‘thank you’ can be enough.

Feedback can be an incredible tool for team building, career development, personal insight and confidence building. Done properly, it is not at all something to be feared, but a gift and a friend.